Are App Stores changing the way we consume software?

Are App Stores changing the way we consume software? Apple, Android and RIM are all betting heavily they will. The idea of an app store isn’t new. People have been downloading software since the first time two computers could talk to each other. So why the sudden huge expansion into the app store model? Applications have quietly replaced hardware features as the main selling points for electronic devices. Until the most recent generation of smartphones, computers and media devices, specific features were what differentiated the product. If you wanted great email capabilities, you bought a Blackberry. If you wanted the best music and games on the go, you bought an iPhone. If you wanted to gloat to your friends that you weren’t a follower, you bought an Android. The feature based sales model was the standard way of designing, marketing and selling electronics. We’ve recently arrived at a point where technology is now so highly developed, that every device has nearly identical feature sets. There are certainly small differences in style, protocol and performance, but most devices you can buy accomplish the same functions. With hardware becoming more or less identical, manufacturers need a way to distinguish their product in the marketplace. This is where the app store comes into play, and why we are currently seeing huge developments in this area. People are beginning to buy their devices based on what apps they can run. This is a big boon for consumers. Previously, with a hardware based feature set, you got what the device gave you. The features were more or less determined by the chips and silicon in the box. Now, it’s possible to take any device you buy, and tailor it to your specific needs by buying the functionality you want by purchasing the right apps. You aren’t married to the built in email client or media player. App stores mean choices. It’s even possible, with the Android, to swap out and tweak the entire operating system. That’s never been a possibility in the past. Apps have been available for quite some time, but the biggest players right now, Apple, RIM and Android are all making major pushes at the moment. They are actively promoting their app stores in a huge way, including prominent links and button to get you right to the app stores in the devices themselves. This promotion has really lit a fire in the development communities, which is another beneficial thing for the end user. Developers are more likely to spend time, dollars and hours developing applications for platforms that are actively pushing them into users hands. Developers now see apps as legitimate pieces of software worth investing in. The runaway success of Angry Birds, which has sold more than 12 million copies, or the impressive launch of the Mac App Store which clocked in a million plus downloads in the first 24 hours have devs scrambling to get onboard. RIM is offering a free Blackberry Playbook Tablet to any developer that adds an app to their store. The manufacturers and developers are solidly onboard with the app store model. It’s a little to early to say, but all signs are certainly pointing to the end user being ready for the App Store model as well. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I purchased a physical piece of software that came on a DVD. The initial sales numbers for the Mac, RIM and Android app stores all look solid, and the curve is definitely trending upwards. We are currently witnessing a fundamental change in the way we consume both hardware and software. As consumers, we’re purchasing our hardware based on what apps it can run, not what features it comes with “Out of the Box”. Our software purchases are now being conducted online, through an App Store, from our devices themselves. Apps are also being viewed as a way to add the features and functionality we need to get essential tasks done. We no longer see apps as amusing little sideshows, or entertaining, but mainly useless widgets and distractions. Apps have grown up and become real software. We’re just a short time away from the death of software as a physical medium, so if you’re a fan of programs on DVD, it’s time to get your last licks in. Don’t shed any tears just yet though. The app store model looks to be a big win all around, especially for the end users. Consumers can expect more choices, better quality software, lower prices and the convenience of instant gratification through on the spot downloads. We’ love to hear how other people perceive the new world of the app stores? What is your favorite of the app stores, and what are your favorite apps? What’s the most app friendly platform? When was the last time YOU went to store and bought a program on DVD (or even CD-ROM!). Drop us a line in the comments and fill us in.

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